Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part Third. III. Bindo Altoviti

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Michael Angelo: A Fragment

Part Third. III. Bindo Altoviti

A street in Rome, BINDO ALTOVITI, standing at the door of his house. MICHAEL ANGELO, passing.

GOOD-MORNING, Messer Michael Angelo!

Good-morning, Messer Bindo Altoviti!

What brings you forth so early?

The same reason

That keeps you standing sentinel at your door,—

The air of this delicious summer morning.

What news have you from Florence?

Nothing new;

The same old tale of violence and wrong.

Since the disastrous day at Monte Murlo,

When in procession, through San Gallo’s gate,

Bareheaded, clothed in rags, on sorry steeds,

Philippo Strozzi and the good Valori

Amid the shouts of an ungrateful people

Were led as prisoners down the streets of Florence,

Hope is no more, and liberty no more.

Duke Cosimo, the tyrant, reigns supreme.

Florence is dead: her houses are but tombs;

Silence and solitude are in her streets.

Ah yes; and often I repeat the words

You wrote upon your statue of the Night,

There in the Sacristy of San Lorenzo:

“Grateful to me is sleep; to be of stone

More grateful, while the wrong and shame endure;

To see not, feel not, is a benediction;

Therefore awake me not; oh, speak in whispers.”

Ah, Messer Bindo, the calamities,

The fallen fortunes, and the desolation

Of Florence are to me a tragedy

Deeper than words, and darker than despair.

I, who have worshipped freedom from my cradle,

Have loved her with the passion of a lover,

And clothed her with all lovely attributes

That the imagination can conceive,

Or the heart conjure up, now see her dead,

And trodden in the dust beneath the feet

Of an adventurer! It is a grief

Too great for me to bear in my old age.

I say no news from Florence: I am wrong,

For Benvenuto writes that he is coming

To be my guest in Rome.

Those are good tidings.

He hath been many years away from us.

Pray you, come in.

I have not time to stay,

And yet I will. I see from here your house

Is filled with works of art. That bust in bronze

Is of yourself. Tell me, who is the master

That works in such an admirable way,

And with such power and feeling?


Ah? Benvenuto? ’T is a masterpiece!

It pleases me as much, and even more,

Than the antiques about it; and yet they

Are of the best one sees. But you have placed it

By far too high. The light comes from below,

And injures the expression. Were these windows

Above and not beneath it, then indeed

It would maintain its own among these works

Of the old masters, noble as they are.

I will go in and study it more closely.

I always prophesied that Benvenuto,

With all his follies and fantastic ways,

Would show his genius in some work of art

That would amaze the world, and be a challenge

Unto all other artists of his time.[They go in.